Los Angeles, CA—-It is always added pressure on a club when you are playing your crosstown rivals. With the Los Angeles FC’s recently signed Gareth Bale watching from the bleachers, that seemed to be enough luck for his team to beat rival LA Galaxy 3-2 at Banc of California Stadium.
It was the fifth win in the team’s last seven MLS contests, moving LAFC (12-4-3, 39 points) five points ahead of Austin in the Western Conference and Supporters’ Shields standings, and the three goals that extended the team’s lead in goals and goal differential. The victory ended LAFC’s five-game winless streak against its local rival.
The first two scores, one in each half, came from Jose Cifuentes, the first multi-goal game of his MLS career, and the third was scored by Cristian Arango, his 28th in 36 games with the club.
For the LA Galaxy (8-7-3, 27 points) the loss, their first this season against a team in the top six in the league standings, left them just a point over the line separating the conference’s playoff teams from the non-qualifiers. The three goals allowed also matched a season high for the team.
“The result, it was a huge one for us,” Kellyn Acosta said. “To finally get that monkey off our back was actually a huge accomplishment.”
Acosta set up the first goal with a corner kick and goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau made four saves, one shy off his season high.
The Galaxy got second-half goals from Samuel Grandsir at the 55th minute and Rayan Raveloson scored with nine minutes in regulation. Raveloson pulled the visitors with in a goal in the 81st minute, but LAFC would not relent and kept the pressure on.
Carlos Vela is one of five players remaining from the 2019 LAFC team that won the Supporters’ Shield and broke the MLS record for points in a season. So with the club once again leading the league, running just four points off the pace it set in 2019, Vela was asked this week about the similarities.
“There aren’t many”, the team’s captain said, which goes a long way toward explaining this season’s success.
“We are a really strong team, more mature, more experienced,” he said.
“If you see the same faces every day, motivation is hard to find. This year with many changes, the way we are playing, we’re always in a good spot to really trust what we are doing and get that motivation to really dream big.”
With all the changes LAFC general manager John Thorrington has made on the field — six of Friday’s starters among them Arango, weren’t with the team at this time last season — the most important difference might be in front of the bench, where the laid-back Steve Cherundolo has replaced the very passionate Bob Bradley.
“They are like two opposing sides,” Vela said. “Bob is really an intense coach. He wants everything perfect.”
But with Cherundolo, “It feels more chill, more cool,” Vela said. “He’ll let people just enjoy the game. He’ll say, ‘Come on, follow some rules. But after that, just show your skills, your talent, and do your best for the team.’”
The Galaxy fell to 1-2-1 in their past four games overall while LAFC improved to 5-1-1 in their past seven contests.